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Haber and Menaldo on whether natural resources fuel authoritarianism

Is there a relationship between natural resource dependence and authoritarianism? In order to answer this question we develop unique datasets that allow us to focus on within-country variance in resource dependence and regime types since the nineteenth century. Our results indicate that resource dependence is not associated with the undermining of democracy, the persistence of authoritarianism, or less complete transitions to democracy. Our time series results are at variance with a large body of scholarship that finds a negative relationship between natural resource dependence and democracy in cross section. We therefore subject those cross-sectional results to a battery of standard diagnostics, and find that the results reported in that literature are very fragile: they are highly sensitive to how natural resource dependence is measured; a product of omitted variable bias due to unobserved heterogeneity; and driven by outliers engendered by longitudinal truncation. Taken together, our results suggest that regime types are not, in the long run, determined by the presence or absence of natural resource wealth.

Stephen Haber and Victor Menaldo (2007), “Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism?,” unpublished paper. Available here.